74th Thunder Bay Christmas Bird Count; Dec 26 2013

This year we had 33 observers in the field, and 5 people sent in counts from their bird feeders. It was a cold day, with a low of -28C in the morning, which felt even colder due to the wind, and a high of -14C. There were up to two feet of snow cover, and as a result we tallied very few ground-feeding birds, and those almost all at feeders. The coniferous cone crop was almost completely absent, but there was a bumper crop of Mountain Ash fruit, which surprisingly remained mostly untouched. All water was frozen.

These conditions resulted in a very low count this year, of both species and total individuals. Total species was 40 (see separate list) and total birds came in at 6505 (the averages for the previous 10 years are 49 species and 10,294 birds). This was our lowest species count since 1999, and the lowest total of individual birds since 1986!

The field group with the highest species total was Jeremy Bryan’s team (Rachel Bryan and Myles Falconer) in Area 14, the north segment of the count circle, with 21 species. Next was Area 10, Vickers Heights, with 20 species, covered by Brian Ratcliff and Moyra Hamilton.

No new species were added to the cumulative list this year. Highlights were a Barred Owl in Vickers Heights and a Northern Hawk Owl on Mountain Road. A new record high count was set for only one species – Fox Sparrow, with two birds spotted at different feeders in Area 14 (previous high –one!) The 2 Northern Goshawks and 4 Brown Creepers tied the previous records. The only finch in good numbers was American Goldfinch, with most of them seen at feeders.

“Lowlights” were many, including only one Evening Grosbeak, one Bohemian Waxwing, and no redpolls, siskins, or crossbills. Totals for many other species were lower than usual.

Count Week species, i.e. species seen in the 3 days before or after Dec 26, but not on count day, were Ruffed Grouse, Red-tailed Hawk, and Snowy Owl.

Thanks to all participants for getting outdoors to count birds despite the cold temperatures, and to Sue and Mike Bryan, and Debbie and Cathy, for hosting the pot luck dinner after the count.

Nick Escott, Compiler.